Cross country opens season with strong showing at Mountains to Sea Open

App+State+women%27s+cross+country+won+first+place+at+the+opening+meet+of+the+season+on+Sept.+18.+Junior+Izzy+Evely%2C+center%2C+finished+sixth+overall.+

Andy McLean

App State women’s cross country won first place at the opening meet of the season on Sept. 18. Junior Izzy Evely, center, finished sixth overall.

Joey Magnani, Reporter

App State cross country started the season strong at the Mountains to Sea Open Sept. 18, at the Don Kennedy Trails at State Farm Park where the team competed against Charlotte and Western Kentucky. 

Sophomore Sarah Sandreuter and senior Isaac Benz led their respective teams to first and second place finishes and were named Sun Belt Cross Country Runners of the Week. Sandreuter finished second overall and beat her previous personal record by nearly a minute, while Benz placed fourth overall, finishing as the first of three Mountaineers in the top ten.

Head coach Michael Curcio said Sandreuter had been steadily improving and he was happy to see her rewarded with a personal record, while Benz continues to be a stalwart for the men’s team. He added it was a good feeling to “knock some of the rust off” for some of the runners in their first race in months.

Sandreuter was surprised to be named Runner of the Week, but she credited much of her success to training over the summer.

“Because our outdoor season got canceled, we did a lot of high mileage training and that definitely gave me a good base to go into the race,” she said. “After the first mile, I definitely felt strong and I felt like it had been a lot easier than it was last year.”

The success came at a good time for the runners after battling through the uncertainties of whether or not they were even going to have a season. Sandreuter admitted that staying motivated was difficult, but she was thankful that the process taught her not to take anything for granted.

“It reignited my love for the sport,” she said.

As for the men’s team, they left the event with confidence but also some disappointment. They knew Charlotte was one of their tougher opponents, but they were still able to finish second and show signs of improvement despite going into the competition shorthanded. Moving forward, Curcio said the focus is going to be more on “race-paced practices,” and is confident that the team’s depth will play to their advantage throughout the season.

Freshmen Dwayne Lillie and Ben Datte did well in the first meet of their season, placing thirteenth and twentieth. Senior Gable Dersham had his best opener yet, finishing tenth overall and Junior Ryan Brown started his season strong finishing sixth.

The women’s team had five runners in the overall top ten. Senior Lisha Van Olsen placed third, sophomore Lila Peters placed fourth, junior Izzy Evely placed sixth, and freshman Faith Younts finished tenth for the Mountaineers. Peters and Younts both posted personal records.

Both teams share the same mindset going forward to prioritize health and remain motivated as they look to replicate their performance from the first race in future events.

“The key to this fall season is managing our health. Training and competing puts stress on the body and the teams that can manage their health the best will be the most successful this fall,” Curcio said.